The new paradigm for B2B growth: Accepting the buyer has all the power

business innovation leadership sales Dec 17, 2022

Research presented in an annual sales performance study by the Miller Heiman Group suggests over 65% of companies are still utilizing the traditional B2B sales process of:

Website engagement > Business Development Team > Sales Team > Onboarding Team > Customer Success Team> Customer Service

Unfortunately, there are some significant problems with this traditional approach:

  • Most of the teams involved in the process have individual goals and operating budgets, none of which are aligned with customer needs.
  • There is inconsistency of message and experience throughout the process.
  • It also tends to be highly inefficient and drives up the overall customer acquisition cost.

The traditional model also gives rise to the question:

How do I optimize my sales process? (buyer-centric).

At a time where the market dictates the question should actually be:

How can I optimize the buying process for my potential customers? (customer-centric).

A lesson for B2B from B2C

The used car industry is a great blueprint for B2B companies looking to transform from buyer-centric to customer-centric. Here’s what that industry’s evolution looked like:

  • Phase 1: Pre-internet days you had to go into the dealer to see what cars are available
  • Phase 2: Early-internet days — stock photos of cars with limited features and benefits
  • Phase 3: Leveraged the internet and social to provide detailed specs and pricing. The salesman’s role was to facilitate the buying process, but you still had to go to the dealership to purchase the car.
  • Phase 4: Complete online purchase. You can now purchase a used car completely online and have it delivered thanks to Carvana. It has become a customer-centric buying process instead of a buyer-centric sales process.

The evolution took less than 10 years and dealerships that didn’t transform went out of business. Meanwhile, Carvana has just surpassed $500 million in revenue last quarter and have a market cap of $5 Billion.

But our industry is different …

If only I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this. Unfortunately, you are NOT unique. You may be in an industry or sector where your competitors have not embraced a customer-centric approach yet, but every company will. The first movers have a distinct advantage and are outperforming their competition.

What buyers want

So, what are today’s customers expecting and, in some cases, demanding during the buying process?

  • A frictionless experience, both offline and online.
  • On-demand research — don’t make them call you for this information
  • Subject matter expertise and industry insights — buyers don’t want to be sold, they want to be helped.
  • Ratings and reviews — this started in the SaaS space with G2Crowd and Captera but is expanding into other industries.

Transforming your sales process from buyer-centric
to customer-centric

I understand this will not be an easy transformation, (and yes it will be a transformation), but you have to start somewhere. I recommend taking these steps first:

1. Talk to your customers. Ask them to describe the process of buying from you. The good the bad and the ugly. I would also interview prospects that didn’t buy from you and find out why (that’s where the real insights lie).

2. Perform a gap analysis based on customer/prospect feedback to your current people, process and technology. Identify low hanging fruit for quick wins and develop a more comprehensive plan.

3. Introduce shared goals and objectives between your teams (Sales, Marketing, Customer success, etc…)

Execute the above and I can assure you the payoff will be worth it because you will:

  • Reduce customer acquisition cost,
  • Drive top-line revenue and
  • Improve the customer experience.

Which all add up to some pretty massive wins for your business.

Good luck!